Friday, May 24, 2013

Day 19 of 30: The Logic of Self-Destruction

"...I would have killed myself, but it made no sense
 To commit suicide in self-defense."
--J D Gilmor "Just a Wave, Not the Water."

Procrastination, self-neglect, cowardice, ignorance, sloth, self-loathing, priorities out of whack, being self-destructive....  There are so many ways to frame the apparent failure to act in one's own obvious, apparent best-interest. We all know this, this is a pattern everyone (I've known well enough to see it) has acted out in their own life in some way.

I didn't really know it, but what I really promised myself I would do for 30 days in early May was suspend mindless indulgence in this pattern.  Now that I am coming up on three weeks of this upending it intentionally I am beginning to realize why I was doing it in the first place. 

This is what a period of focused practice like this has illuminated for me:  self-care hurts sometimes.   That's why it doesn't happen naturally for me.  I don't hate myself, I like feeling good.

There's a mythic notion in our culture that optimal well-being is essentially tantamount to pleasure.  I think it is promoted by advertising, like most cultural ideas.  Gyms, for example, promote the idea that working out is an interesting, invigorating activity which is always done in bright, clean places surrounded by beautiful bodies in tight clothing.   

Babies are never pictured in advertisements at Pediatrician's offices wailing in pain after being stabbed with a needle by someone who was cuddling them a second ago, yet this is what happens to a baby at a Pediatrician's office every visit.  

Yoga studios promote the notion that doing yoga is quietly blissful and deeping calming, always done where there's plenty of space, when there's plenty of time to luxuriously stretch and move, around calm, centered people with beautiful bodies and tight clothes.  

People are always pictured in dentist's office with bright, white, smiles, not with throbbing bleeding gums, stretched-open mouths, needles being plunged into them, and high-speed drills whirring metalic grinding noises throughout their skull.  

So, let's call bullshit on all this right now.

Working out sucks, for the most part, the feel-good comes after working out and this pleasure can be approximated by taking a Vicodin and napping on the couch.  Pediatrician's office are places of terror, confusion and pain for babies.  The feel-good comes after whatever treatment or medication is applied (via all that terror and pain) has a chance to work.  Hatha yoga, when done correctly, is uncomfortable, and a bit boring.  The feel-good comes afterward from walking around in a body with an upright spine, balanced musculature, and integrated energy systems.  Going to the dentist is expensive, uncomfortable, inconvenient and it can be full of surprises, embarrassment and shame at worst.  The feel-good comes afterward from having clean, pain-free teeth and a mouth that is pleasant for others to see and for other's noses to be close to.

So, if I told you that I've been avoiding pulling off this band-aid on my hairy arm all day, there's no underlying notion that I am self-destructive for being reluctant to do so, even though the harmful bacteria that are colonizing underneath it will instantly cease to be any threat when I do so.  I simply hate pulling band-aids off of hairy arms, so I put it off.

Am I a self-destructive procrastinator?  Is this self-neglect, cowardice, ignorance, sloth, self-loathing, priorities out of whack, being self-destructive?   You could say so, and I could argue about that, or I could pull down my shirt-sleeve, seeking the pleasure enjoying a few more minutes without ripping the hair out of my arm.

I'm human.  I am inclined towards my preferences and away from my aversions, just like anyone else.  It is enough to have to deal with that.  It is not helpful for me to layer-on all the judgments and comparisons that are necessary to frame this as procrastination, self-neglect, cowardice, ignorance, sloth, self-loathing, priorities out of whack, or being self-destructive.

That gets in the way.  I have enough in my way without placing additional obstacles in my path with my thinking.  What I have learned is that I don't do things that are hard because they are hard, not because of some deep, unknowable psychic interplay of my history, personality and circumstances.   Hard is hard.